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Environmental Law: Climate Law Update
Reasons for Economic Optimism in a Greener World: Reports
By Dennis Pfaff and Kevin Livingston, Editors
In a world that has sent lots of frightening and contradictory financial signals lately, there remain trillions of reasons to be hopeful that moving toward a lower-carbon future can also provide enormous economic benefits, as gleaned from some recent reports.
Climate Law Update recently noted some of the voices calling for maintaining a steady green course, despite the stormy economy. There have also within the past few weeks been a series of documents put forward that attempt to hang some numbers on the benefits of doing that. The research was also highlighted in a publication from the U.S. Department of Energy.
In late September, a study produced by the Worldwatch Institute with funding from the United Nations Environment Programme produced the startling estimate that the global market for environmental goods and services could more than double to more than $2.7 trillion a year by 2020. The report said half of that would be in the area of energy efficiency, with the rest in "sustainable transport," water supply, sanitation and waste management.
The report, which was also accompanied by a press release, noted that 2.3 million people in recent years have found jobs in renewable energy. That the number could mushroom to more than 8 million in wind and solar by 2030, with a total of more than 20 million people employed in all renewable energy sectors by that year. It found that additional millions of jobs could be created in producing more energy efficient buildings.
Job growth was also a big focus in a separate analysis issued by the United States Conference of Mayors earlier this month. It estimated that the next 30 years could generate more than 4.2 million "green" jobs, which it defined broadly. Along with employment in field directly related to renewable and nuclear energy, it also included jobs in engineering, law, research and consulting -- and in fact said that fully half of the green positions would come from those indirect fields.
The document, and an accompanying summary of key findings, estimated that as much as 10 percent of the economy's new job growth could come from the green sector, making it the fastest-growing segment. In a press statement announcing the study, the mayors' organization noted that fully 85 percent of the green jobs identified in the study would be in metropolitan areas.
Said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles, vice president of the organization:
"We can now measure and show how green jobs and climate protection go hand in hand. This gives us a glimpse into the future and the sizable economic benefits that will come from a green economy."
Bolstering the assessments were findings made public by Ernst & Young this month suggesting that investments in clean technology were hitting record levels. The company cited its own studies showing an overwhelming majority of global companies it surveyed were undertaking climate change initiatives; more than a third of corporate venture capital programs were expected to increase their investments in clean tech companies next year; and that more than half of institutional investors globally at least sometimes consider a company’s climate change response when considering investment in a new issue.
On a more corporate level, a California solar company, SunPower Corp., this week said its quarterly net income nearly tripled because of strong sales of components for power systems, according to Reuters. The news sent the company's stock up by 10 percent.
Despite the general optimism of such reports, there are some warning signs, including the decision by the developer of a pair of wind farms in New York to suspend work and continuing controversy over the economic effects of Europe's plans to combat climate change, as noted in today's "In The News" section.
An the UNEP report itself warned that climate change would have negative effects on workers and their families, particularly people involved in areas such as farming and tourism. It also said that too few green jobs are being created for the working poor or for the hundreds of millions of young people who will be searching for work over the next decade.
--Dennis Pfaff of Thelen LLP
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